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By 06/12/2022Janeiro 16th, 2023No Comments

By Cristiano Gianolla

I propose the term ’emotion narrative’ as a distinct account of a range of emotions, both positive and negative, that entangle social and political groups providing idealisation, identification and differentiation. They are based on the understanding that social and political aggregation is produced through rational and emotional significations that defines the relationship between the ingroup (us) and outgroups (them). The emotion narrative highlights the existence of the interconnectedness of various emotions in specific processes of socio-political idealisation, identification and differentiation, assuming that it is produced by a framing story that is dynamic in itself. 

A Manichean and oversimplified understanding of the emotion narrative define the ingroup with positive emotions (such as pride, joy, love, interest or pleasure) and the outgroup with negative emotions (for instance, hanger, hate, fear, shame or resentment). In this polarised account, the emotions characterising the intergroup generate opposite valence, for example fear for the outgroup is related to security or relief for the ingroup, or pride for the ingroup is related to contempt for the outgroup. This gives the general idea that the core of the emotional state of a political subject is defined by a conjunction of positive and negative emotions which are related among them. However other factors – such as the levels and kind of social, cultural and political knowledge, commitment, responsibility and identification – define to what extent positive and negative emotions polarise. This means that instead of fear/security or pride/contempt in absolute terms, emotion narratives generate different levels and kinds of polarisations in political subjects. 

Manichean emotion narratives are able to provide higher level of emotional arousal, thus instigating stronger emotional states, two example are: the nascent phase of political movements and parties, a process in which a sense of scope and solidarity produces new collectivities, in which polarised emotion narratives are used to distinguish – and define – the ingroup that is being created against those outgroups who limit or oppress it. This was the case for social movements such as the Geração a rasca, Indignados or the Sardins as well as populist parties such as the 5 Star Movement, Chega or Lega. A second example of polarised emotion narratives is expressed by opposition forces in a given political system, opposition parties or worker’s unions for example, especially when they are characterised by radical standings on policies, they polarise the emotion narrative in order to strengthen signification. Polarised emotion narratives emerge during political momentum in specific socio-political contexts and they tend to characterise a development phase of a socio-political phenomenon. When emotion narratives are less polarised, they tend to normalise the exiting configuration of political forces and produce political stability. This is the case of governing forces. 

Related References

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Cite this entry as:

Gianolla, Cristiano. 2022. ‘Emotion Narrative’. In Populisms and Emotions Glossary, edited by Cristiano Gianolla and Maíra Magalhães Lopes. Available atário